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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

Making it hard for the opposition?

A Time to Pre-empt?

A decent eight-card suit, first-in-hand, great shape with a four-card suit on the side that is not spades. Everyone’s vulnerable. Could it be the time to start at the 4 or even the 5 -level? Shall we make it hard for them? There’s two of them and only one partner.

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A 10 6 4
A J 10 8 7 6 5 2
West North East South


“Yes” say

Kris Wooles “5Diamond-small: I guess I lean towards the aggressive and descriptive action first and foremost with shapely hands. Yes, it might be better to start with 1Diamond-small and we might miss a heart fit but then again it could lead to the opponents learning much more about their respective hands than I would like.  5Diamond-small rolls the dice.”

Nigel Kearney “5Diamond-small: I like pre-empting as much as possible. Sometimes we will miss a slam and/or belong in hearts but more often we will gain by making life hard for opponents. Non vulnerable, this hand would be too strong though.

But “No” say the rest with some comments which bear a lot of resemblance to the actual situation:

Matt Brown “1Diamond-small: Opening 5Diamond-small seems way too random and I couldn't imagine considering anything else.”

Stephen Blackstock “1Diamond-small: The only alternative I can see is 5Diamond-small. Pass with this playing strength and controls can hardly help, and 3Diamond-small/4Diamond-small would be wildly misleading. The problem with 5Diamond-small is that partner cannot know how little I need in the right places to make a slam – essentially “red cards good, black cards bad” in Orwellspeak.

If the opponents allow, I can try to convey that message by starting low. I may regret letting them in cheaply, but since I intend to go at least to the five level regardless, I rate the chance that they will wish to contest at that level as low and worth taking in the interests of a more helpful description.”

The opponents were to have very little to say…

Michael Cornell “1Diamond-small:   Even if the hearts were clubs, I do not like to pre-empt with two aces and in any case, this is a 4-loser hand.

6Heart-small is a great contract oppositeHeart-smallKQJxx and a singleton diamond. That’s how strong this hand is but I am desperate to find a 4-4 fit only.”

Anyone would think Michael was playing at the Hamilton Bridge Club recently when this hand occurred. I would have thought the chances were strong that if our partner had the red suits that we could be outbid in spades, lending weight to the argument in favour of pre-emption. Yet, opening lower gives one a chance to gauge whose hand this really is. Meanwhile, pre-empting with two aces is unusual and could alter its value.

Bruce Anderson “1Diamond-small: while it is customary to pre-empt when holding an 8 -card suit, partner is allowed to have good hand with length in hearts and a singleton diamond. Then we will play 5Diamond-small with possibly a grand slam cold, which would be disastrous at Teams. Obviously, opening at the one level means the opponents may have no difficulty discovering a big spade or club fit, but partner can hold spades and hearts. If partner does not bid strongly, or bid at all, my rebid will be 5Diamond-small.      

Opening at the one level also tells partner I have the defence associated with an opening hand, which may be important."

North was to be rewarded when they heard the first bids of the other three players, two passes and a bid of 1Heart-small:


North Deals
Both Vul
A 10 6 4
A J 10 8 7 6 5 2
J 10 7 6
5 2
K J 9 8 6 2
W   E
A 5 3 2
9 3
K Q 9
Q 10 7 5
K Q 9 4
K Q J 8 7
A 4 3
West North East South
  1  Pass 1 
Pass ?    


At the table, North was able to call 3Club-small, showing a shortage in clubs and 4-card heart support. Most would not have that luxury. 2Heart-small seems somewhat of an underbid though heart calls at a higher level could overstate the high-card strength of the hand to their partner.

If you cross your fingers and hope someone will call over 2Heart-small, then that might be the best action. When South bids to 4Heart-small, North needs to take control. If North bids 4Spade-small as a cue-bid, and South emerges with Key-Card, I would not reply 5Heart-small as one’s partner could never imagine the hand they are facing, despite the unusual cue-bid from a supposedly minimum opener. So,     6Heart-small would be my choice. That would also be the case if South used Key Card after one's 2Heart-small bid, a rather aggressive action.

At the table, following the 3Club-small bid and a 3Spade-small cue-bid from South, North did take control and somewhat fortuitously found partner to hold 2 key-cards and the Heart-smallQ.

The scoresheet showed that some had not found their heart fit and had paid a heavy price, not just missing the slam but recoding a negative score after a spade lead to 5Diamond-small. Meanwhile, the spade lead was not always found against 6Heart-small though playing Teams, it mattered little whether it was 1430 or 1460. Both beat 600 or 620 and were way ahead of -100.

So, Michael Cornell and others did indeed predict the outcome. The higher you pre-empted the worse your score was likely to be. Perhaps, with two aces, it was not the time to be pre-empting your partner.


 Not much, but how much?
West Deals
Both Vul
W   E
A Q 10 9
5 4 3
10 3
K 10 4 2
West North East South
Pass 1  1  Dbl
Pass 4  Pass ?


1Club-small is 3+ clubs and 4Diamond-small a singleton or void diamond with 4+ spades. What now?Something on which to ponder...

Richard Solomon

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